Trump’s pandemic response is secret from health experts

Exponential increase in coronavirus casesCOVID-19 is now officially a pandemic.  The image above illustrates the exponential increase in the number of confirmed cases in the U.S.  The numbers are already out of date as I type these words.

In possibly the worst response in a long series of bad responses to the pandemic, the White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified.”

“The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions” have been held in a secure room—excluding government experts who did not have the requisite security clearances, says Reuters. The administration has literally been keeping coronavirus response discussions secret from some of the government’s own experts.

Joni Ernst blocks Violence Against Women Act

Joni Ernst is at it again, siding with the NRA over abuse survivors.  Survivors are calling her out for it.

Ernst blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and then turned around and tried to take credit as a sponsor of VAWA by introducing a new version of the bill that stripped out a provision banning convicted domestic abusers from having guns.

Sign the open letter to Ernst at Why Joni?

An open letter to the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party about the Iowa caucus

While the 2020 Iowa caucuses are still fresh in our minds, I want to talk to you about how we could do a better job of not just choosing a Presidential nominee, but also allowing Iowa voters to participate in it.

This is not a complaint about the software problems that occurred on caucus night.  I’m sure others have made their voices heard on that.  Nor is this a rant about Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, though I absolutely do have a rant about that ready to go whenever you’re ready to hear it.  I want to focus on the things that the Iowa Democratic Party can do something about, within the confines of existing law (or at least incremental improvements to existing law).

  1. The existing system provides a proportional representation result.  That is, if a candidate has 51% support among Iowa Democrats, we expect him or her to end up with 51% of Iowa’s delegates to the national convention, not all of them.  Proportional representation is a good thing that should be preserved, and extended.
  2. We should choose the nominee by one person one vote, rather than distorting the process by awarding delegates at the precinct level.
    • It makes no sense to set a predetermined delegate count for a precinct based on past performance, rather than on how many people showed up tonight.
    • It makes no sense to determine winners and losers by precinct, where small random sampling error distorts the result, rather than statewide.
    • There is a voting system that allows for Proportional Representation:  the Hare system, also knows as Single Transferable Vote.  Voters fill out a paper ballot on which they mark their preference for each candidate, 1 for their first choice, 2 for their second, and so on.  I can describe the details elsewhere; suffice to say that no one’s vote is wasted because a voters can always help out his or her second or third choice candidates.  There is also no incentive to vote for someone other than your genuine first choice, no need for strategic voting, e.g., “I have to vote for my second choice because my first choice can’t win.”  Your second choice vote is counted only if your first choice has lost.
    • Ballots should be counted state-wide, not by precinct or county or district.  If we must have a result rapidly (which would be important to media, but not to voters), we can talk about technical means of transmitting ballots to the IDP on election night.  We could learn a lot from the experience of Cambridge, MA, which has used STV for local elections for generations, and finishes the count on election night.
    • Note that the presence of paper ballots makes a manual recount possible, even desirable.  We should popularize Single Transferable Vote by counting our ballots in public in front of observers.
  3. We have to eliminate the barriers to participation by people who work evenings, or who cannot access child care.  We should have a long period of early voting, encourage early voting, and make it possible to vote by mail.
  4. The 2020 caucuses consumed thousands of hours of volunteer labor that could have been directed toward defeating the Republicans.  Worse, volunteers aren’t necessarily accountable for errors and omissions on caucus night.  All the essential functions of the caucus should be done by paid IDP staff.  If that means we can’t have as many precincts, good.
  5. Nothing is more of a drain on voter participation than knowing that there are superdelegates who can ignore the result of the popular vote.  There must be no more superdelegates going forward.

I want to see you lead the Iowa Democratic Party in this direction.  And I call on my fellow Democrats to insist on it, as a condition of their support in the next leadership election.

Wall Street Journal: Trump assassinated Soleimani to win support in impeachment trial

The money quote buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article about the Soleimani assassination:

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

So Trump assassinated a foreign leader, at least in part, for political gain. Specifically, he wanted to avoid being removed from office for withholding U.S. aid to an ally for political gain.

Last chance for the Republican Party to save the last shred of its honor

I’ve sent this letter to Senators Ernst and Grassley.  It charitably overestimates their willingness to put country above party, but it was worth a shot.

Dear Senator,

There are those who say that the Republican Party has become a cult of personality, and the personality is Donald J. Trump. They say that the Republican Party has abandoned principles it once fought for, including respect for the rule of law, adherence to the Constitution, and upholding personal accountability, to defend Trump. There are those who say the Republican Party has lost its honor, and that Republican Senators are Trump lackeys, incapable of voting to remove Trump from office no matter the facts and no matter the law.

I am not one of those people. I think you can look past the politics of the moment and remember that you took an oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Because I think you can in fact remember your sworn duty at this moment, I also think you can look at the uncontested facts presented in public under oath in the impeachment hearings, and vote to convict Trump.

If, on the other hand, you would like to convince me that the Republican Party should be permanently discredited and dishonored, by all means vote to acquit. It is your own honor at stake, so choose well.

Roundtable: Cracking Down on Corruption

Join us for an anti-corruption policy roundtable in Missouri Valley to learn about the big, structural change that Elizabeth Warren is fighting for in Iowa, especially her plans to fight corruption.

Missouri Valley Public Library on Thursday, September 26 from 6:30 – 8:00 PM.

Sign-up link: https://events.elizabethwarren.com/event/126385/

Contact: Zach Spitz, (617) 999-9957, zspitz@elizabethwarren.com

We’re one election away from losing our democracy

It’s easy to claim to love democracy when your own side is winning. When your party is losing, though, then you tend to show your true colors. Since the election of 2018, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to see what Republicans think of democracy when it really counts, and the results aren’t pretty.

Republicans rammed through a long list of laws in Wisconsin aimed at preventing the incoming Democratic governor from doing what the voters elected him to do. They’ve done something similar in Michigan. In North Carolina, there may be a new election because of blatant Republican voter fraud. Their contempt for democracy could not be more clear.

Paul Krugman has more than once pointed out how similar our Republicans are to the authoritarian regimes taking hold in Europe:

The fact is that the G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America.

Voter-approved state laws are also under attack.  Missouri’s constitutional amendment to prevent gerrymandering, Florida’s restoration of voting rights to ex-convicts, and a medical marijuana measure in Utah are all being “slow walked” by Republicans or outright replaced by legislation not approved by voters.

One partial solution Democrats should pursue, is to change state constitutions so that there can be no monkey business during the lame duck session, because there is no lame duck session. Let the term of every legislator end on election day. The same should be done at the federal level.